Posted at 1:34 AM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
Budget talks ended tonight without an agreement. With four days to go until the Legislature is constitutionally required to adjourn, Governor Pawlenty and legislative leaders have still not reached agreement on the best way to erase the state's $935 million projected budget deficit.
They'll continue negotiating behind closed doors this morning but seem to be stuck on the best way to provide property tax relief. Democrats met Governor Pawlenty's demand to cap property tax increases at 3.9% but also want $75 million in aid to local government and and $30 million in direct property tax relief for homeowners. DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the governor is now making other demands.
"Like the runner who is running the race who thinks they're running the 5K who is suddenly is told they're running the 10K who then is told they're running the marathon, It's becoming a little more difficult to know exactly where the finish line is."
Pawlenty has repeatedly said in recent weeks that a property tax cap was the key to budget negotiations. His spokesman, Brian McClung, said they are pleased with the cap offer but won't take the property tax issue off the table since they need to reach agreement on the entire budget package.
"If the democrats are willing to do that at 3.9% that would be positive. There are numerous other details that you mentioned, LGA, direct property tax relief and essentially the entire package as a whole and we'll continue to look at those and work on those issues."
Health care reform has also resurfaced in budget talks. Key health negotiators were seen shuttling in and out of the governor's office throughout the night on Thursday. GOP Sen. Betsy Wergin and DFL Rep. Paul Thissen both said they can craft a health care reform package that Democrats and Pawlenty can live with.
"I think that was possible from the beginning," Wergin said.
It appears that the governor and lawmakers have reached agreement on some issues. DFL Sen. Tarryl Clark said they have reached agreement on the use more than $400 million from the state's budget reserves. She also said they agreed to $300 million in spending cuts out of a total budget cut of $355 million. Clark also said they plan to capture $109 million by closing the so-called corporate tax loophole. Lawmakers
If an agreement is not reached, the House and Senate appear ready to pass a budget related bills that the governor said he would veto.
Pawlenty has two options if a budget agreement is not reached by Monday. He can either cut spending on his own through a process known as unallotment or call lawmakers back into a special session.
It isn't certain if the House and Senate will try to override an expected veto of an Education funding bill. It passed both bodies with a veto proof majority but GOP House Minority Leader Marty Seifert said it would be "nuclear war" if Democrats try the veto override. He said they will uphold Gov. Pawlenty's veto of the Education Finance bill and was optimistic that another education funding bill could be part of an agreed upon budget package.
Seifert also said his caucus woudl uphold a bill that would require the state to opt out of federal driver's license standards. Seifert said he had a strategy involving Real ID but didn't offer specifics. When asked if it could involve an executive order by Governor Pawlenty, Seifert replied "It could."
The House is also expected to take up a widdled down Transportation Policy Bill on Friday that has tougher restrictions on teen driving. Supporters of the bill were forced to remove a provision that would have allowed police to pull over motorists just because they weren't wearing their seat belts. Critics argue that police could practice racial profiling by pulling over suspicious drivers. Others say drivers should be allowed to decide whether they want to wear a seat belt. Current law allows policy to ticket drivers and passengers for not wearing a seat belt but police need to have another reason for making the traffic stop.
Budget talks continue today. Democrats met Gov. Pawlenty's property tax cap of 3.9% but Pawlenty's spokesman says that's only part of the budget talks and other things need to be worked out. MPR, the Pi Press, the Star Tribune and AP have stories.
Tune into MPR's Midday today since the show is at the Capitol and will have the latest from legislative leaders, etc.
Legislative leaders don't appear nervous that a deal hasn't been reached yet.
A school insurance bill is headed to the governor.
Former Gov. Jesse Ventura called the defacing of his portrait as "despicable."
A judge grants a temporary injunction against "Theater Nights." The Star Tribune, the Pi Press and MPR have stories.
A Senate Committee kills the California Car Emissions proposal. The Pi Press and MPR have stories.
Pawlenty vetoes the minimum wage bill. AP, Forum Communications and the Star Tribune have stories.
Pawlenty signed a bill into law that would make it harder to get addictive prescription medicine online and another bill that extends bar hours during the RNC.
The House defeated the primary seat belt proposal. Today they'll try with just teen driving restrictions.
GOP Rep. Michele Bachmann blogs about the need to provide school choice for foster kids.
The Wall Street Journal says airlines are trying to determine whether to merge. DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar is mentioned.
2008 Race for President
The Washington Post writes about former John Edwards supporters who are now supporting Barack Obama. DFL Rep. Jim Oberstar is mentioned.
Salon wonders how Obama will get to 270 electoral college votes. The website said Minnesota is not Walter Mondale's Minnesota anymore.
2008 Race for Congress
The Mankato Free Press writes about the issues facing the 1st District.
The head of the DCCC will campaign with 3rd District DFL candidate Ashwin Madia today.
Madia also liveblogs with MNCampaign Report.
Pawlenty for VP Watch
Gov. Pawlenty is scheduled to speak before the Wisconsin State Party Convention tonight. The Milwaukee Journal Sentinel and the Wausau Daily Herald have stories.
Pawlenty makes the Final 4 in CQ's VP Madness.
Here are a few crazy VP picks.
Posted at 11:06 AM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
An arbitrator has ruled that the state had just cause in firing a Minnesota Department of Transportation employee, Sonia Morphew Pitt. MnDOT fired Pitt in November after an internal investigation found that she committed serious misconduct. Pitt, who was MnDOT's emergency manager, did not immediately return to Minnesota from the East Coast after the I 35W bridge collapse. An internal investigation also found that she allegedly used taxpayer money for personal benefit. Pitt appealed her dismissal. An arbitrator ruled that Pitt misused her state cell phone and knowingly violated MnDOT's travel policy. She added that Pitt abused the freedom accorded to her in her capacity as manager. The commissioner of the Department of Employee Relations issued a statement saying the arbitrator's decision affirms that serious misconduct cannot be tolerated
Posted at 11:40 AM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
Governor Tim Pawlenty just told reporters that he feels budget negotiations are in a good enough place to have a deal in place by the end of the weekend:
"There aren't big disputes, philosophical disputes, left. Those have mostly been hammered out. Now it's just a matter of we have too many requests and not enough money to pay for them all. So we either have to shrink the requests for lose a few of them."
I'm told that they're ready to go back into budget negotiations.
Posted at 12:34 PM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
He and his spokesman, Brian McClung, rip the paper's story on the Lake Vermilion State Park for being unfair. Is the criticism fair? Decide for yourself by reading it here.
Posted at 2:41 PM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
There is nothing to write regarding budget talks so let's paraphrase some sports analogies for the end of session.
Democrats say Governor Pawlenty is trying to run out the clock, is playing a four corners offense and is moving the goal posts.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher said the governor is also trying to extend the finish line.
Pawlenty and Republicans say Democrats are in the Red Zone but can't score, that they are missing an easy up and down and can't finish strong.
Here are some other ideas that we came up with in the press corps:
We're in the final lap.
They're missing an easy layup
They can't stick the landing.
They may belly flop this dive.
They missed a gimme putt.
A prevent defense is in effect.
There's a three yards and a cloud of dust approach to budget talks.
It's a sticky wicket!
They're not hitting for power.
Budget talks are on the ropes.
They're down for the count.
Martiga Lohn, with the AP, wants obscure sports metaphors. Can you help?
UPDATE: See my previous blog entry for "Tees off."
Posted at 5:51 PM on May 16, 2008
by Tom Scheck
Negotiations between Governor Pawlenty and legislative leaders broke off until 8:45. The governor is speaking at the Wisconsin State Republican Party Convention. Legislative leaders are also appearing on Almanac.
DFL House Speaker Margaret Anderson Kelliher and GOP House Minority Leader Marty Seifert say they expect an agreement to be reached tonight, floor sessions tomorrow and then they adjourn sine die. Kelliher said "we are as close as we have ever been to reaching an agreement." Seifert said "something major would have to happen for a deal to unravel."
Kelliher said they are still negotiating a health care reform package and an education finance package. It appears that a property tax cap of 3.9% will be included in the deal. What is uncertain is the level of Local Government Aid and direct homeowner relief. Earlier in the day, DFL Senator Tarryl Clark said they agreed to use $500 million from the state's budget reserves. Kelliher also hinted that funding for Central Corridor could also be a part of the deal.